During his presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama emphasized negotiations rather than military action. The Republicans ridiculed his focus on diplomacy as naïve, "Strong countries and strong presidents meet and talk with our adversaries," Obama said during an August 19 debate. "We shouldn't be afraid to do so. We've tried the other way. It didn't work."
Candidate Obama argued that the United States had to put diplomacy at the forefront of American foreign policy. But today a leading civil rights organization is charging that one aspect of diplomacy -"the language of "dialogue' and "cooperation' -" is little understood, rarely reported on, and is being used by governments throughout the world as a fig leaf to conceal their tacit acceptance of egregious human rights abuses.
"The ritualistic support of "dialogue' and "cooperation' with repressive governments is too often an excuse for doing nothing about human rights," says Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
His remarks come as the organization released its "World Report 2011," a 649-page summary of human rights issues and practices in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide.
"Too many governments are accepting the rationalizations and subterfuges of repressive governments, replacing pressure to respect human rights with softer approaches such as private "dialogue' and cooperation'.... Instead of standing up firmly against abusive leaders," many governments "adopt policies that do not generate pressure for change."
The report was particularly critical of the United Nations, the European Union and the United States of America.
The famed eloquence of US President Barack Obama "has sometimes eluded him when it comes to defending human rights," the report says. It cites as examples bilateral contexts with China, India, and Indonesia.
Criticism in the report is not limited to foreign policy. For example, it says that the United States "sets a dubious world record with 2,574 minors serving life sentences at the time the report was written."